New life for fire-damaged home

A fire on New Year?s Eve 2016 gutted a house and left a Fairfield family homeless.

Michelle Randolph and her family lost their rental house at 806 W. Stone Ave. They found lodging a few houses away, but their house was too badly damaged to return to.

The owner, Andrew Busscher, wasn?t sure what to do with it. He approached Don Hoelting, a man who lived two doors down from the burnt home who also owned rental properties. He thought it was worth a shot asking Hoelting if he wanted to buy it and fix it up.

The two men met in late February and by April 1 Hoelting had taken possession of the home, or what was left of it. Rehabilitating the property would be a major undertaking, but Hoelting would have to balance it with his job as an accountant and the 16 or so other properties he managed at the time.

Why did Hoelting take a chance on such a badly damaged house?

?I saw it as an opportunity to create something virtually new for less than the cost of new construction,? he said. ?I would be able to use the existing land, water and sewer mains, along with most of the foundation and roof. That amounted to a lot of cost savings.?

Hoelting had remodeled many homes but never one damaged by fire.

?My challenge was knowing how much of the home to replace,? he said. ?I ended up taking an enormous amount of material to the dump.?



Hoelting worked from the ground up. He reinforced the foundation by pouring new cement a foot wide around the old bricks and blocks.

?I can tell you that there aren?t many brick and block foundations today,? he said. Hoelting said the home was built around 1940.

The exterior frame of the house was all that was salvaged between the foundation and the roof. Hoelting removed every interior stud. He ended up replacing a fair number of the exterior studs, too.

?I basically had to rebuild the house one wall at a time,? he said.

By removing the interior walls, it gave him the freedom to redesign the house, to make it more open and friendly.

The house contains a kitchen, dining room, and living room with a 12.5-foot vaulted ceiling. Hoeling said the tall ceiling makes the room feel ?very spacious.?

New electrical wiring was installed, and then Hoelting used spray foam insulation to seal every crevice.


New project comes along

Hoelting started work on the house in April with three or four contractors, but he stopped after a month because another business opportunity presented itself, one too good to pass up. Kevin Phelps had put three houses on the market that were just across the street. Two needed a fair amount of remodeling and the third needed an extreme overhaul. Hoelting took a gamble and bought all three.

The house that was in the worst shape was actually the newest, built in 1950, and the other two were from 1900. Hoelting spent three months fixing up those three homes, and by September they were all either occupied or ready for tenants.

With the conclusion of that side project, Hoelting?s focus returned to the house at 806 W. Stone. He worked on it for a few more months and had it ready by early November. He appeared before the city council to ask for a three-year tax abatement on the first $75,000 in value, which the council granted. He found a tenant later that month.

?I?ve never done four remodels in a single year,? Hoelting said. ?Now I?m taking a breather.?

Hoelting hires specialists when he needs technical expertise, but he?s able to do a lot of the work himself, too. He creates the design on an architectural software program. He purchases the materials and acts as the general contractor.

?I?m the chief gopher,? he said. ?I get the workers anything they need. I also do a lot of the cleaning myself, and I go on trash runs.?